Stars The Great Hall, Toronto ON, November 22

Stars The Great Hall, Toronto ON, November 22
Photo: Matt Forsythe

Hot off the release of There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light, Stars returned to their hometown of Toronto last night (November 22) to celebrate their ninth full-length at the first of two back-to-back, intimate gigs at the Great Hall. Loyal fans of the beloved indie darlings crowded the floor and balconies, peacefully co-existing and filling the room with palpable anticipation. It wasn't long before the group took to the stage, greeting the eager audience with warm smiles and raised drinks before launching into "Losing to You" off the new record.

Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan's signature chemistry was immediately evident. They came to play: Campbell often crouching to the floor, singing up at Millan as if he was pleading on his knees to her. The plaintive and yearning tone that defines some of Stars' strongest songs is heightened in a live setting, where Campbell and Millan aren't just singing to their listeners but physically showing them the heartache and passion that lies behind each lyric.
The duo's dynamic bond also manifests in moments of lighthearted banter that best resemble an exchange between siblings. "Hi Toronto! You still have a stupid name but you're getting better every day," Campbell cheekily greeted the crowd. ("Your name is stupid," Millan retorted; always quick with a comeback, he laughed, replying, "I'm called fucking Torquil. 'Welcome to Torquil.' What a fucking nightmare that would be!")
Stars have been making music together for nearly two decades, and while they may not have attained the level of international recognition that they so deserve, they've built something bigger: an incredibly devoted fanbase. Whether the band were playing older tracks laden with nostalgia ("Wasted Daylight," "Take Me to the Riot," "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead") or fresh, synth-infused cuts from There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light ("Privilege," "Alone," "Wanderers"), audience members joyfully sang along, dancing and smiling genuinely.
It was indicative of the love and respect between a band and its fans, which both Millan and Campbell took time to stop and acknowledge at multiple points throughout the night — the latter telling us all to spend 2018 thinking about light, love, kindness, gratitude, romance, gentility and more. (Campbell: "Easy peasy, pudding and pie, stupid fucking white guy!")
The band shone onstage as a cohesive six-piece. Campbell gave a special shout-out to drummer Patrick McGee who, despite breaking his finger while bike riding through Toronto in the rain, still managed to hold down the kit with expert precision. The admiration shared between Stars and their fans has developed over time to resemble a kindred bond, but last night, the band's vitality, vibrancy and overall message of love felt more crucial and authentic than ever before.

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